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Soil pollution is defined as the build-up in soils of persistent toxic compounds, chemicals, salts, radioactive materials, or disease causing agents, which have adverse effects on plant growth and animal health. Soil is the thin layer of organic and inorganic materials that covers the Earth's rocky surface. The organic portion, which is derived from the decayed remains of plants and animals, is concentrated in the dark uppermost topsoil. The inorganic portion made up of rock fragments, was formed over thousands of years by physical and chemical weathering of bedrock. Productive soils are necessary for agriculture to supply the world with sufficient food.
There are many different ways that soil can become polluted, such as:
• • • • • • • • • • Seepage from a landfill Discharge of industrial waste into the soil Percolation of contaminated water into the soil Rupture of underground storage tanks Excess application of pesticides, herbicides or fertilizer Solid waste seepage Petroleum hydrocarbons Heavy metals Pesticides Solvents
The most common chemicals involved in causing soil pollution are:
Types of Soil Pollution
• Agricultural Soil Pollution i) pollution of surface soil ii) pollution of underground soil
percolation of contaminated surface water to subsurface strata. lead and other heavy metals. This occurrence of this phenomenon is correlated with the degree of industrialization and intensities of chemical usage. leaching of wastes from landfills or direct discharge of industrial wastes to the soil. texture and mineral content of the soil or which disturbs the biological balance of the organisms in the soil. insecticides and herbicides • Dumping of large quantities of solid waste • Deforestation and soil erosion Indiscriminate use of fertilizers . oil and fuel dumping. The most common chemicals involved are petroleum hydrocarbons.• Soil pollution by industrial effluents and solid wastes i) pollution of surface soil ii) disturbances in soil profile • Pollution due to urban activities i) pollution of surface soil ii) pollution of underground soil Causes of Soil Pollution Soil pollution is caused by the presence of man-made chemicals or other alteration in the natural soil environment. pesticides. This type of contamination typically arises from the rupture of underground storage links. solvents. application of pesticides. A soil pollutant is any factor which deteriorates the quality. Pollution in soil is associated with • Indiscriminate use of fertilizers • Indiscriminate use of pesticides. Pollution in soil has adverse effect on plant growth.
and potassium as K2O. An infamous herbicide used as a defoliant in the Vietnam War called Agent Orange (dioxin). Excess potassium content in soil decreases Vitamin C and carotene content in vegetables and fruits. The most important pesticides are DDT. organophosphates. The carbohydrate quality of such crops also gets degraded. etc. and must compete with weeds for nutrients. As a result. it persisted in the environment. becomes an indestructible poison for crops. The consumption of such crops causes the pesticides remnants to enter human biological systems. rodents and other animals. which then contaminate root crops grown in that soil. aldrin. For instance. viruses. The over use of NPK fertilizers reduce quantity of vegetables and crops grown on soil over the years. malathion. maize. falcons and eagles became endangered. dieldrin. hydrogen and oxygen from air and water. which come from the raw materials used for their manufacture. As. Farmers generally use fertilizers to correct soil deficiencies. Insects soon became resistant to DDT and as the chemical did not decompose readily. Fertilizers contaminate the soil with impurities. ospreys. farmers use pesticides. affecting them adversely. phosphorus as P2O5. potassium. still produce DDT for export to other developing nations whose needs outweigh the problems caused by it. To kill unwanted populations living in or on their crops. Indiscriminate use of pesticides. It also reduces the protein content of wheat.Soil nutrients are important for plant growth and development. sulfur and more must be obtained from the soil. causing eggshells to be thin and fragile. bacteria. Plants obtain carbon. Since it was soluble in fat rather than water. DDT has been now been banned in most western countries. fungi. Ironically many of them including USA. The first widespread insecticide use began at the end of World War II and included DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and gammaxene. BHC. large birds of prey such as the brown pelican. chlorinated hydrocarbons. etc. The remnants of such pesticides used on pests may get adsorbed by the soil particles. Pb and Cd present in traces in rock phosphate mineral get transferred to super phosphate fertilizer. grown on that soil. Since the metals are not degradable. Mixed fertilizers often contain ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3). insecticides and herbicides Plants on which we depend for food are under attack from insects.. magnesium. calcium. phosphorus. . their accumulation in the soil above their toxic levels due to excessive use of phosphate fertilizers. But other necessary nutrients like nitrogen. The vegetables and fruits grown on overfertilized soil are more prone to attacks by insects and disease. it biomagnified up the food chain and disrupted calcium metabolism in birds. furodan. grams.
plastics. Pheromones and hormones to attract or repel insects and using natural enemies or sterilization by radiation have been suggested. Since a significant amount of urban solid waste tends to be paper and food waste. old construction material. Soldiers' cancer cases. Similarly. cardboards. These can in the long run. Pesticide problems such as resistance. packaging material and toxic or otherwise hazardous substances. Pesticides not only bring toxic effect on human and animals but also decrease the fertility of the soil. get deposited to the soils of the surrounding area and pollute them by altering their chemical and biological properties. resurgence.was eventually banned. most agricultural waste is recycled and mining waste is left on site. Solid Waste disposal was brought to the forefront of public attention by the notorious Love Canal case in USA in 1978. petroleum and metal-related industries and small businesses such as dry cleaners and gas stations contribute as well. solid waste includes garbage.degradation may take weeks and even months. cancers and respiratory. They contain increasing amounts of paper. heavy metals from smelting industries and organic solvents are the ones we have to pay particular attention to. and heath effects have caused scientists to seek alternatives. More than 90% of hazardous waste is produced by chemical. the majority is recyclable or biodegradable in landfills. industrial and agricultural operations. causing an unusually large number of birth defects. Toxic chemicals leached from oozing storage drums into the soil underneath homes. Some of the pesticides are quite stable and their bio. battery metals. The portion of solid waste that is hazardous such as oils. domestic refuse and discarded solid materials such as those from commercial. glass. skin conditions and infertility have been linked to exposure to Agent Orange. Deforestation . Dumping of solid wastes In general. nervous and kidney diseases. They also contaminate drinking water aquifer sources.
Forests and grasslands are an excellent binding material that keeps the soil intact and healthy. During the past few years quite a lot of vast green land has been converted into deserts. The precious rain forest habitats of South America. which provide innumerable feeding pathways or food chains to all species. tropical Asia and Africa are coming under pressure of population growth and development (especially timber. construction and agriculture). agricultural development. cutting of timber. Deforestation. mining. lie in these forests. Their loss would threaten food chains and the survival of many species. Humans speed up this process by construction. over cropping and overgrazing. temperature extremes. precipitation including acid rain. Many scientists believe that a wealth of medicinal substances including a cure for cancer and aids. Deforestation is slowly destroying the most productive flora and fauna areas in the world.Soil Erosion occurs when the weathered soil particles are dislodged and carried away by wind or water. Pollution Due to Urbanisation . It results in floods and cause soil erosion. They support many habitats and ecosystems. which also form vast tracts of a very valuable sink for CO2. and human activities contribute to this erosion.
On a rough estimate Indian cities are producing solid city wastes to the tune of 50. cloth wastes as well as sweepings) and many non-biodegradable materials (such as plastic bags. • Foul smell: Generated by dumping the wastes at a place. If left uncollected and decomposed. • Increased microbial activities: Microbial decomposition of organic wastes generate large quantities of methane besides many chemicals to pollute the soil and water flowing on its surface • When such solid wastes are hospital wastes they create many health problems: As they may have dangerous pathogen within them besides dangerous medicines.80. plastic wastes. plant twigs. they are a cause of several problems such as • Clogging of drains: Causing serious drainage problems including the burst / leakage of drainage lines leading to health problems. leaves. papers. damage to foundation of buildings as well as public health hazards.000 . glass bottles. carcasses.000 metric tons every day. • Barrier to movement of water: Solid wastes have seriously damaged the normal movement of water thus creating problem of inundation. glass pieces. plastic bottles. injections. Pollution of Underground Soil . animal wastes.Pollution of surface soils Urban activities generate large quantities of city wastes including several Biodegradable materials (like vegetables. stone / cement pieces). wooden pieces.
chemicals. rotting organic material) leaching out of landfill • Oil and petroleum leaks from vehicles washed off the road by the rain into the surrounding habitat • Chemical fertilizer runoff from farms and crops • Acid rain (fumes from factories mixing with rain) • Sewage discharged into rivers instead of being treated properly • Over application of pesticides and fertilizers • Purposeful injection into groundwater as a disposal method • Interconnections between aquifers during drilling (poor technique) • Septic tank seepage • Lagoon seepage • Sanitary/hazardous landfill seepage • Cemeteries • Scrap yards (waste oil and chemical drainage) • Leaks from sanitary sewers Effects of Soil Pollution Agricultural .Underground soil in cities is likely to be polluted by • Chemicals released by industrial wastes and industrial wastes • Decomposed and partially decomposed materials of sanitary wastes Many dangerous chemicals like cadmium. lead.These can damage the normal activities and ecological balance in the underground soil Causes in brief: • Polluted water discharged from factories • Runoff from pollutants (paint. selenium products are likely to be deposited in underground soil. Similarly underground soil polluted by sanitary wastes generate many harmful chemicals. arsenic. chromium.
• Reduced soil fertility • Reduced nitrogen fixation • Increased erodibility • Larger loss of soil and nutrients • Deposition of silt in tanks and reservoirs • Reduced crop yield • Imbalance in soil fauna and flora Industrial • Dangerous chemicals entering underground water • Ecological imbalance • Release of pollutant gases • Release of radioactive rays causing health problems • Increased salinity • Reduced vegetation Urban • Clogging of drains • Inundation of areas • Public health problems • Pollution of drinking water sources • Foul smell and release of gases • Waste management problems .
the larger predator animals will also have to move away or die because they've lost their food supply. the pollutants will change the makeup of the soil and the types of microorganisms that will live in it. plants and other aquatic life crops and fodder grown on polluted soil may pass the pollutants on to the consumers polluted soil may no longer grow crops and fodder Soil structure is damaged (clay ionic structure impaired) corrosion of foundations and pipelines impairs soil stability may release vapours and hydrocarbon into buildings and cellars may create toxic dusts may poison children playing in the area Control of soil pollution The following steps have been suggested to control soil pollution. the toll of contaminated soil is even more dire. To help prevent soil erosion. the land will usually produce lower yields than it would if it were not contaminated. in turn. If certain organisms die off in the area. In addition. and Recycle. Soil that has been contaminated should no longer be used to grow food.Environmental Long Term Effects of Soil Pollution When it comes to the environment itself. In general we would need less fertilizer and fewer pesticides if we could all adopt the three R's: Reduce. spreading the contaminants onto land that might not have been tainted before. we can limit construction in sensitive area. This. If contaminated soil is used to grow food. can cause even more harm because a lack of plants on the soil will cause more erosion. because the chemicals can leech into the food and harm people who eat it. This would give us less solid waste. Reducing chemical fertilizer and pesticide use . Reuse. Thus it's possible for soil pollution to change whole ecosystems Effects of soil pollution in brief: • • • • • • • • • pollution runs off into rivers and kills the fish.
Reusing of materials Materials such as glass containers. cloth etc. Acidic and alkaline wastes should be first neutralized. plastic bags. Reforesting Control of land loss and soil erosion can be attempted through restoring forest and grass cover to check wastelands. Materials such as paper. Crop rotation or mixed cropping can improve the fertility of the land. Solid waste treatment Proper methods should be adopted for management of solid waste disposal. soil erosion and floods. Industrial wastes can be treated physically. Biological methods of pest control can also reduce the use of pesticides and thereby minimize soil pollution. can be reused at domestic levels rather than being disposed. For example. chemically and biologically until they are less hazardous. recovery of one tonne of paper can save 17 trees. paper. reducing solid waste pollution. some kinds of plastics and glass can and are being recycled. This decreases the volume of refuse and helps in the conservation of natural resources. Recycling and recovery of materials This is a reasonable solution for reducing soil pollution. . the insoluble material if biodegradable should be allowed to degrade under controlled conditions before being disposed.Applying bio-fertilizers and manures can reduce chemical fertilizer and pesticide use.
should be processed further in 'gobar gas plants' to produce 'gobar gas' and good manure. Natural land pollution: Land pollution occurs massively during earth quakes. land slides. palm waste. methyl alcohol. acetic acid. Environmental and aesthetic considerations must be taken into consideration before selecting the dumping sites. Anaerobic/aerobic decomposition of biodegradable municipal and domestic waste is also being done and gives organic manure. Pyrolysis is a process of combustion in absence of oxygen or the material burnt under controlled atmosphere of oxygen. Cow dung which releases methane into the atmosphere. coconut. These kinds of natural disasters are not only a problem in that they cause pollution but also because they leave many victims homeless. hurricanes and floods. It is an alternative to incineration. . Incineration of other wastes is expensive and leaves a huge residue and adds to air pollution. acetone and a fuel gas. yields charcoal along with products like tar.As a last resort. The gas and liquid thus obtained can be used as fuels. Pyrolysis of carbonaceous wastes like firewood. cashew shell. rice husk paddy straw and saw dust. which is expensive to clean . corn combs. Burying the waste in locations situated away from residential areas is the simplest and most widely used technique of solid waste management. All cause hard to clean mess. and may sometimes take years to restore the affected area. new areas for storage of hazardous waste should be investigated such as deep well injection and more secure landfills.
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